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Crafty Business Questions: Preparing for Craft Fairs

This is my first craft show.  What do I need to bring to make sure I’m prepared?

After participating in several craft fairs I have compiled two checklists: the must-haves, and the nice-to-haves.  The amount of stuff you can bring from your nice-to-have list depends largely on how much booth space you’ve got and how much room your must-haves take up.  **Note: this list is for indoor fairs only.

Must-Haves:

  • Craft fair info. Includes directions, rules, and booth location.
  • Inventory and inventory list. Bring a variety of more and less expensive products, and bring as much as you can fit in your booth–I have run out of inventory at really busy craft fairs.  Write down everything you’re bringing to sell and how many you have at each.  This will allow you figure out exactly what you’ve sold.
  • Change. I recommend $200-$300 in small bills.  I break it down as follows: 12 tens, 10 fives, and 30 ones.
  • Cash apron. Forget the big, black cash box with the lock.  It’s awkward and heavy at a fair.  You can make a cash apron from scrap fabric (I made this one–it’s just rectangles), or you can get one from your local hardware, craft or office supply store.  Some things labeled “tool apron” or “craft apron” will also have pockets that work.  For those wanting a more fashionable cash apron, LuluKnits sells a tutorial for this gorgeous little number.
  • Tablecloth. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be long enough to cover the top of the table and hang down long enough to hide the messy pile of boxes and bags you’ve got stashed under there. I’ve been using the same $1.99 plastic green tablecloth for years.  Stay away from fabrics that show dust or dirt easily, that aren’t machine-washable, or that damage easily (like velvet or velour).
  • Helper. This is so important, especially during holiday fairs.  You will need someone to help you set up and man the booth while you eat or visit the restroom.
  • Business cards. Customers, store owners and members of the press who visit your table want an easy way to find you again.  I go through a couple hundred business cards at each fair so bring a lot.
  • Credit card slips. If you sell anything over $10, I highly recommend you set yourself up to accept credit cards.  You can use tools like Propay or Paypal rather than a monthly account (more on this in a later post), but you do need something official with which to collect information. An imprinter with sales slips are best (you can get one with 100 slips for about $25 online), but you can also print your own order forms–just make sure your customer still receives a receipt with your contact info on it.
  • Receipt book. Good for keeping track of what you’ve sold and for taking custom orders or orders that will need to be shipped.
  • Cell phone. Use in case of emergency or to call in credit card authorizations.
  • Signage. Anything your customers should know should be posted in big letters, from your business name, to your prices, to the fact that they get a free button for signing up on the mailing list.
  • Display materials. Again, it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to work.  Things that make merchandise vertical (i.e. visible from a distance), such as hangers or small easels are great, as are a couple of strategically placed spotlights.  Small shelves or boxes help to separate lots of small items, like jewelry or wallets.
  • Packing materials. Newspaper and old supermarket bags are fine.  It’s free and good for the planet!
  • Energy bars and water.  If you’re super busy (and you always hope you will be), you won’t have time to eat that pasta salad you packed.  An energy bar fits beautifully in a cash apron, however, so you can sneak bites here and there.
  • Emergency kit. Containing tissues, aspirin, allergy pills (if you get allergies), band-aids, breath mints and hand sanitizer. Also pack any emergency medications you may have and an emergency contact number.  Exchange numbers with your helper.
  • Fix-it supplies. This should include at the very least: paper, cardstock, pens, permanent marker, masking, clear and duck tape, string, scissors, and anything you might need for your particular wares, such as needle-nose pliers, glue, price stickers or a sewing kit.
  • Business license and seller’s permit. It’s the law, folks.  Copies are okay.  You can leave the originals home.  More on this in a later post.
  • Comfy shoes. At a busy fair, you’ll be standing all day.
  • Extra clothes. Sometimes it’s freezing at the fair.  Sometimes a customer spills soda on you.  You know.

Nice-to Haves:

  • Media kit. Packet of photos, bio, press clippings, line sheets or order forms, etc.  To give to the occasional interested member of the press.
  • Lunch. Whatever you can eat quickly and with as little mess as possible is best.  Raw veggies, crackers, etc. are good.
  • Camera. It’s nice to document the event and your booth set-up, especially if you have a web site or newsletter.
  • Gift wrap. Tissue paper or small jewelry boxes are good.  Keep it fast, easy and cheap. Customers  appreciate not having to wrap gifts themselves during the holidays, but you shouldn’t lose a lot of time or money on it.
  • Lint remover. Especially good if you have a dark tablecloth and/or a cat.  Tape works in a pinch.
  • Hand truck or fold-up cart. The skinnier the better, to navigate narrow doorways or aisles.  A godsend when the parking lot is really far from your booth.
  • Board with mounted press clippings. Nice if you have room on your table.
  • Laptop. Depending on your fair’s set-up, you may be able to bring a laptop to show customers a more extensive catalog, or to accept credit card payments online.
  • Chair cushion. As my high school Economics teacher used to say, “The mind can absorb only what the seat can endure.”
  • Music player. Make sure to check the rules with your fair coordinator(s) about this one. Keep the volume low enough that you can converse with customers easily.
  • Craft Supplies. Great for downtime and for luring customers to your booth.  People love to see the magic behind your crafts.
  • Wholesale order forms and/or price lists. For the occasional interested store owner.

What other items are you glad you had at your last craft fair?  Do you have a crafty business question you’d like answered?  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

By Biz Miss

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One Response

  1. Avatar Roberta Thompson says:

    Hi , I love christmas craft shows and was wondering if there was a website to get ideas for christmas. Most of the sites I find are not really what I’m looking for. I notice the shows have amazing crafts and I can’t find anything to make, could you help? Thanks for your time,Roberta ( frustrated crafter )

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